Texas Plant Explosion Raises Questions Locally
Fifteen people have been killed by an explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas. Emergency crews are still in searching for possible survivors.
In a report by KIRO, they ask if this could happen here.
According to the state ecology department, Washington has about a dozen fertilizer plants, along with dozens of other dangerous chemical plants, oil refineries, and smelters. This includes the biodiesel plant in Grays Harbor.
The explosion of a fertilizer plant has already left many dead, hundreds injured and caused a nursing home to collapse, trapping residents inside.
The Washington State Department of Agriculture says there are two fertilizer plants in the state that make similar products to the West, Texas facility that exploded this week.
King 5 News reports both facilities are in the same town of Finley, located outside of Richland in Benton County, and have good safety records.
Benton County Fire Department Captain Jeff Ripley says the two facilities are surrounded by deluge monitors and water guns.
Ripley says the facilities were initially built away from communities, but that towns grew up around them.
Fire fighters say they constantly tour the plants and plan for problems and say neither facility stores explosive materials in the same containers as those in Texas.
Many are raising questions regarding whether this is a tragic accident, or something different.
Washington has six refineries — two in Ferndale, two in Anacortes, one in Tacoma and a biodiesel plant in Grays Harbor County. It also has at least 32 additional chemical plants on this Washington Department of Ecology list.
Congressman Rick Larson, whose district includes four of the state’s five refineries, told KOMO the Department of Homeland Security had spent about $65 million at the time beefing up security. Two of the refineries spent $2.5 million on added security.
Six years ago, Homeland Security started a program to secure those plants. About $500 million has already been spent, but it turns out 90 percent of the most dangerous plants have not even been inspected.
In early August of 2012, Todd Keil, former assistant secretary at Homeland Security responsible for overseeing the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards program, told CBS News he was so concerned about problems with the program that he asked for an internal review.
Last week, the Government Accountability Office reported that as of the end of June, not one of the 4,400 chemical plants in the program had been fully inspected.
Keil said he was forced to resign in February. The Department of Homeland Security wouldn’t comment officially on his resignation.